I recently announced my newest endeavor to conquer an Ironman next August 21, 2016 in Copenhagen, Denmark. While I just told you, I’ve been working towards it for three weeks now and have been marathon training since the beginning of July. I wanted to have my plan put together with a solid date in mind before publishing it to the world because specific goals keep one accountable.
Before we talk about my triathlon training, I’d like to step back to discuss my marathon training. I’m running the New York Marathon on November 1st , which will be my 8th full marathon. This is one of the last few races still on my bucket list and while I am excited to focus on a new challenge, I still plan to race well in New York. I also will be running the Disney World Marathon in January, as my 9th marathon. I signed up for this race in 2015 but because I had the opportunity to travel in Norway for the month of January, chose to defer for one year. These two races are shaping the next 20 weeks of my training.
For the next 20 weeks my priority workout is my long runs and my interval training. I have been training for New York since July and I most recently completed my first 18- miler last week, have a 16- miler this weekend, and a 20- miler the week to follow.
My Run Program & Intervals
Many traditional training programs for marathons encompass anywhere from 3-6 days a week of running where there is a mix of shorter runs, middle distance runs, and a long run that ranges from 12 miles to 22 miles. While many find they can complete a successful marathon following one of these programs, it is also quite common to focus all post- race activity on rehabbing injuries incurred from training and/or race day. One of my greatest accomplishments is not the fact that I have completed 7 marathons, rather that I have done so injury free.
My running program consists of only 2-3 days of running a week.
I know, this is scary to many who come from a traditional approach. I complete my long runs on a diligent basis. The goal of these are to fine tune nutrition, get in time on my feet, and get my body comfortable again with prolonged running. My long runs are usually run at a pace of 30s to 1min slower per mile than what I’ll do on race day and often I am not even sore the next day, just tired.
I have been using my long runs to fine-tune my nutrition and hydration practices. In the last many weeks I’ve made slight adjustments taken from my readings and research on Ironman races and athletes. In the past I have struggled in my races with GI- discomfort, and have struggled to have consistent nutrient and fluid intake.
In the future, I’ll share more details and facts about nutrient timing, intake, and how to fine tune your nutrition/hydration with specifics to you and the research that has gone into it. For now, I’ll simply share that I’ve traded my pre- run breakfast of eggs and toast for a more carbohydrate rich meal of oatmeal with dark chocolate chips and bananas and am working on creating my own sports drink instead of Gatorade. So far, I have felt lighter on my runs; I’ve had consistent energy, and literally no GI- discomfort. For many athletes this can be a significant hurdle in training and during a race.
Intervals are key.
In addition to my long runs I make sure to do interval training every week. I swear by intervals, and my clients who have incorporated them into their program I think would completely attest to the changes they make in performance and to your body. I have worked with one client for three marathons now, and when we stepped up her interval training in her last marathon, she shaved about 5 minutes off of her time (that’s amazing!). When I was diligent in my interval training, I shaved 10 minutes off my marathon (I also had an exceptional race day so I wont attribute all of that to intervals, but I know it got me some of those minutes).
So what are intervals? They can take many shapes and forms but here is my go to marathon training workout:
The Workout: 4-8 x 5 min Intervals
Complete 4-8 sets of 5 minute intervals. The 5 minutes is run at a maximal speed, it should be hard enough that by the end of the 5 minutes you couldn’t stand more than 10 more seconds at that speed. The time in between intervals is the amount of time it takes your heart rate to return to ~120 beats per minute.
Why: This is the workout I swear by because it is designed based purely on cardiopulmonary physiology. In a simple explanation, our cardiovascular performance is related to your heart rate at a given intensity. In order to maintain prolonged exercise like in a marathon, you have to keep your heart rate in the aerobic zone. This is when your body has oxygen to send through your blood to working muscles. The point at which one’s body can no longer supply enough oxygen to the body and metabolism changes to an anaerobic metabolism, is when you start to feel out of breath, fatigue, and ultimately your body starts to produce lactic acid and other metabolic by- products. Anaerobic activity isn’t something one can sustain for the course of a marathon, so your goal is to maximize your aerobic capacity.
The faster you can run without moving into an anaerobic heart rate zone, the faster your race will be. Running for five minutes at a close to maximum speed forces your body to work at a very high heart rate for up to 2.5 minutes (depending on how comfortable you are at a high heart rate). Once you complete the five minutes, you allow your body to clear all of byproduct of anaerobic metabolism, and then do it again. By doing this you challenge your body’s transition from aerobic to anaerobic, along with recovery. Your heart gets more efficient in how strong it is, how much happens from one heart beat, your body builds more ways to get blood to working muscles, etc. Over time, even after 2-3 workouts you’ll find that you will be able to maintain a lower heart rate at the same speed because you’ve taught your body to adapt. Basically this is the human body at it’s finest (in my opinion). It also means that if you do this for the normal 16-18 weeks of training for a race, your heart becomes a machine (amazing and magic all at the same time!).
If that just went over your head, don’t worry about it. All you need to know that by doing this you will challenge your cardiovascular system to get more efficient, and therefore be able to run your entire race faster J If I just blew your mind- welcome to why I love what I do! And yes you can consider me a nerd..
This would be considered an advanced interval program, so if you haven’t done intervals ever before, best to ask me about a good place to start. Always make sure to start with a solid warm up of ~5minutes of moderate running before jumping into intervals, and if it’s your first time- don’t put the speed so high that you fall off the treadmill. Do what you know you can do, check in with how you feel and your heart rate, and go from there. It is always better to work conservatively than push yourself too hard before you know what your limit is and what you are comfortable with.
As I continue to train for marathons, every round of training takes slightly different shape because of time constraints, my schedule, my social life (yes I do have fun sometimes), how my body feels, and what my goals are. Some times I’ve truly been head over heels in love with running, and other times completely not. These all go into what the rest of my training entails. The most important thing however, is what I do when I’m not running, which has kept me injury free!
Soft tissue work, foam rolling, using a lacrosse ball, stretching like nobody’s business, yoga, etc. all fall into one category. My early marathons I spent my time between running (a lot, like 4-6 days a week) and yoga. Making sure that you stay loose and flexible is important for injury prevention. Most runners have had their fair share of hip, knee, and ankle pain as well as plantar fasciitis and tendonitis. These things can usually be prevented or at least managed by proper focus on lengthening, loosening, and strengthening.
I’ve been spending a good 2-3 hours a week recently focusing on this. Every time I’m in the gym I foam roll often even with a lacrosse ball which puts more localized pressure in an area, and when tolerable can help significantly with releasing tension. If you are new to rolling, I’d suggest starting with a foam roller unless you want to cry in public. I also do a lot of stretching using bands and a method called joint distraction. It’s been huge in managing some aches and pains in the last few weeks! I’ll be posting a video next week with more on this J
For my most recent marathons I spent an aggressive 2-3 days a week doing strength training and heavy lifting. Many people shy away from strength training lower body because you’re afraid to feel tired on runs, but it has helped in keeping my body strong and powerful! I always mix in some sort of squats, deadlifts, and single leg exercises like lunges, step ups, etc. Recently I’ve been working on single leg stability and have been doing a lot of TRX lunges.
Since I’m aiming for an Ironman I’ve also mixed in a LOT of swimming (like 3-4 days a week). This is partly because I love swimming but also because it feels good and I can already feel how it’s helping my running. I’ve been keeping it simple and doing 250m, 500m, and just straight laps for the duration of my swims- it depends on the day, my mood, and how motivated I am.
In a given week, here’s what I’ve been up to:
Ready to run: Nike+ GPS Watch, visor, compression socks, Nathan hydration belt with DIY gatorade, and of course I color coordinate :)
My beloved Nike watch mid- run... That is a permanent cloud in the screen, not a reflection. I guess a new GPS will now be added to the list soon :(
I like to mix up where I lift, it forces me to try new things, and doesn't let me fall into a rhythm. Hanging out with Popeye at Brooklyn Boulders Somerville is a great place to try, especially if you don't want a gym membership!
Sometimes you can't take yourself too seriously- just saying. This suit was one of my racing suits for the Scotts Valley High swim team back in the day- we weren't necessarily fast, but we knew how to have a great time.
Rolling out with a lacrosse ball @ BSC South End
In addition to the amazing staff and trainers at BSC South End, they also have the most amazing clean and perfect temperature pool.
Best part of training hard is enjoying food, and I think sprinkles make everything more fun and enjoyable!